Scene: Competitive brothers-in-law live next door to each other on a suburban street, so when one puts Christmas lights outside his house, the other responds with a bigger and brighter set, unleashing a war of twinkling light-bulbs and neon displays which threatens to ruin both families.
Now, change Christmas lights to national Presidential campaigns, MAGA flags and Biden-Harris signs and you have the makings of a campground battle royale, and not very pleasant for other camping neighbors. Yes, you might be living full-time in your RV and don't have a sticks-and-bricks house in the suburbs to announce your allegiances. Yes, you have a right to post any political statements you want in your space (unless the campground rules prohibit it). Yes, you may well be smarter than everyone around you. And, yes, you might be a jerk.
Just because you can be a political animal in an RV resort doesn't mean you should. You must realize that friends and neighbors don't want to judge you; they want to have fun with you. In this polarized political climate, it makes no sense to alienate half of the people around you for no justifiable reason.
That being said, there are people who just can't help themselves, so I'm here to help them. Here h are some tips for staying out of the political fray:
1. No campaign signs or logos
Not much makes me angrier while traveling than to see décor from opposing candidates from those I support. I can easily ignore the local election materials, since obviously I don't have a dog in that hunt. But regional or national campaigns can be the tipping point for many American travelers. In a campground, that is magnified because of limited space and the unknown mix of out-of-state allegiances. Just say "no" to any political signs, flags or bumper stickers.
2. Have a small list of non-political topics handy
The weather usually makes a great topic for campground conversation. It's one of the subjects that most RV'ers can relate to and have stories about, along with black tank comedies and wildlife experiences. Perhaps a couple of poor experiences in other resorts would be interesting. If someone brings up a political issue, refer to your mental list and change the subject, stat!
3. Keep your TV volume down
Yes, you love the debates and your favorite news network. But why go to all the trouble of becoming apolitical in your park and then let the cat out of the bag via TV?
4. Avoid judgement
There are plenty of points of view to go around, and you don't have the corner on the market. If you, by chance, figure out that someone backs a party that's not yours, fight the urge to think poorly of them. Everyone has reasons for the way they think and for whom they support, and many people are single issue voters. Your party might not have that answer for them. Judge not lest you be judged. Believe me, it's much easier to talk sports or cooking with someone you don't think of as a moron.
5. Avoid becoming a political evangelist
I know what I think when I see a well-dressed couple coming to my door with a Bible in their hands... where can I hide? The last thing I want is a religious discussion at my front door. The campground should be a place of safety and comfort, in my opinion, and no travelers should be subjected to religious, political or marketing discussions that they want no part of, especially as members of a captive audience. Social media has given people a completely safe political space to preach to their heart's content. Your neighbors in the park can't just "unfriend and block" you in the non-digital world, so be kind and prevent the necessity.
So, I'm sure there are many other strategies you can think of. Please feel free to leave your suggestions as comments below.
Address: 14638 Travis Parkway, Caney City, TX 75148
Phone: (903) 489-0639
# of sites: 103
Full hookup price: From $35/day
Open: Year Round
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Shiloh on the Lake is on the shores of Cedar Creek Lake, a reservoir built for recreation and waterfront homes. It sits in a rural county, about an hour from the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area in East Texas. The campground is wooded and has about 2,000' of shoreline. Most RV sites have water and 50-amp power, and many have sewer hookups.
Shiloh's owners and staff are extremely friendly and helpful. The grounds take up almost 50 acres, so it's a sizable park for only 100 or so RV sites, They have cabins, screened shelters, boat trailer parking, a gazebo overlooking the lake, a roped swimming area, two docks and a fishing pier, and a fish-cleaning station.
Watersports and fishing opportunities are plentiful on Cedar Creek Lake and Shiloh's long waterfront gives campers ample space to dock or moor their watercraft and toys right at the campground. RV sites are not at all crowded in most of the park, and a few of them are close to the water's edge. The grounds are sloped and sandy, so mud is almost never a problem with rain.
Cedar Creek Lake is the fourth largest lake in Texas and has 320 miles of shoreline. The reservoir is 18 miles long and 8.5 miles wide at the widest point which offers plenty of space for everyone. You can rent a boat or take a guided fishing trip from several marinas and boating outlets on the lake. The county maintains three islands on the large reservoir as bird sanctuaries.
We were delighted to see an off-leash dog park, split by a fence between large and small dog areas. Beneath old-growth shade trees are benches for owners to rest, and there is a mix of grass and dirt for dogs to enjoy. Each side has a podium with waste bags and clean water bowls at fresh water faucets.
This campground primarily focuses on family recreation, so in peak season and on many weekends, there will be a large number of children afoot. Over Labor Day week, the park was full and extremely noisy. The thick wooded park also gives little sky view for satellite reception. Refuse bins are also quite a hike from many of the sites.
Like many rural campgrounds, Shiloh on the Lake is a bit of a drive from a larger town with a Walmart and other resources. The small towns around, such as Malakoff, Gun Barrel City or Caney City, do have a smattering of stores and restaurants, but you won't generally find what you're looking for without driving for a bit. Athens (and the nearest Walmart) is only 12 miles away, but it feels like 40, and the next closest city is Dallas, about an hour away.
All of the shoreline of Cedar Creek Lake is either privately owned or restricted by county facilities, with almost no public access open. This means that if you don't know someone on the lake, you'll have to access it from Shiloh. This is not ideal for photographing either the lake or wild birds.
The grounds are sandy, which is helpful for drainage, but also great for ants, which are everywhere through the campground. You will want to mitigate that exposure or you risk an infestation while you are parked, plus you'll have to do something to protect pets.
Shiloh on the Lake has many benefits and any detriments are far outweighed by its advantages. Better grooming, more sites with sewer hookups, a section cleared of trees for open sky, and perhaps more conveniently-placed trash bins would improve the property, but only slightly so. We would easily recommend Shiloh to RV owners, especially in off-season, so a 4-star rating is warranted.
Address: 1385 Old State Line Road, Saulsbury, TN 38067
Phone: (731) 376-0935
# of sites: 186 (140?)
Full hookup price: From $42/day
Open: 4/2 to 11/15
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Few sites with sewer
Cherokee Landing is a bit misnamed. A "landing" is defined as "a place where persons or goods are landed, as from a ship." There is no such place on the small pond they call Lake Cherokee, so at best it is named with tongue-in-cheek. I guess they could have called it "Pirate's Cove" with the same effect.o
That said, Cherokee Landing Campground is about an hour or so from Memphis and just a couple of miles from the Mississippi border.
The campground is clean and provides a lot of green space and shade for its RV sites. The lake is picturesque, if not large, and provides opportunities for fishing and canoeing. The park itself is dog friendly, allowing fences and corrals outside of the rigs. Almost all sites have cement pads, picnic tables and barbecue grills.
The park's proximity to Memphis gives easy access to attractions such as paddle-wheel riverboat cruises, Graceland, a Victorian village, and more. Any drive in the region will be scenic and will provide views of a wide variety of small town Main Streets, homesteads and farms. We saw deer and an array of birds every day of our stay.
Sadly, one can easily see that Cherokee Landing was once a great resort. Its Thousand Trails page lists 339 RV sites, but their campground map shows only 186 numbered spaces. When I took a quick walk around the grounds I found that at least one complete loop in the woods has been chained off for quite some time, and the campsites within are fully overgrown and unusable. With various other non-maintained spaces unworkable, I'm guessing there are closer to 130 or 140 available sites in the campground.
Only 21 sites in the park have sewer hookups. There were only two available when we arrived off-season and the last was taken by the next day. I can't imagine a full-hookup site being available very often in the summer. The TT page also lists 50 amp as being available but we didn't see anything but 30 amp anywhere.
Most common buildings, such as the "Comfort Centers" (restrooms and laundry facilities) and the recreation center, are aged and tired. Washers and dryers appeared like they are in their third decade of use, though offered cheap pricing per load. The lake is diminutive and does not have a boat ramp for launching your own small craft.
Though dog friendly, there is no off-leash area, though there is ample lawn space for a fenced dog park in many sections of the grounds. There aren't any dog walking areas, per se, and no pedestals with waste bags.
I went back and forth on my rating of Cherokee Landing between two and three stars (out of five) and decided on the higher valuation, basically because it is a clean and comfortable campground that I would recommend, at least in the off-season or for long weekends when sewer hookups may not be needed. I also try not to let lost potential or a downward slide effect my rating directly.
Address: 1246 Rains County Road 1470, Point, TX 75472
Phone: (903) 598-2260
# of sites: 293
Full hookup price: From $59/day
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Around an hour's drive east of Dallas, Lake Tawakoni RV Campground gives a rural lake camping experience to a good-sized metropolitan area. The lake is substantial, having 36,700 acres of surface area and approximately 200 miles of shore line. It has become a popular lake for swimming, boating, water skiing, jet skiing, fishing, picnicking, duck hunting, and more.
Unlike a few of the Thousand Trails resorts we've been to recently, there are plenty of full hookup sites in this park, and several 50 amp sites for Thousand Trails members. We were able to grab a site on the lake shore, which, again, is unusual for membership resorts. The sites are spacious, with many green spaces scattered between sites around the campground. Our site even had a large rock-paved patio with a sturdy picnic table about 12 feet from our front door.
There is also a great deal of shade throughout this park and, along with all the usual amenities, there is even a driving range for golfers. The shade offers some respite from the heat of the summer and gives campers a forest experience.
Lake Tawakoni itself is a draw for fishing and water sports and several visitors had bass and sporting boats with them, either on their nearby lake shore or in the site to take to the boat ramp. There are watercraft rentals and guided trips available in several of the small towns around the lake. Lake Tawakoni is known as the "Catfish Capital of Texas", but offers good to great fishing for several species of bass and crappie. The average hybrid bass on the lake weighs about 7 to 8 pounds.
As roomy as the sites are, they are also pretty muddy during and after rainstorms. The annual rainfall here is almost 40 inches, so chances are you get some precipitation, especially in the summer months. This section of Texas is a bit south of the primary path of severe storms, but not south enough to avoid them completely. There have been 142 tornadoes reported in and around Point, TX, since 1950 and they average two per year.
The roads through the park are also old and rough, with no smooth driving anywhere in the resort. I don't know if this is the case during winter months, but in August it was very hot and we were inundated with millions of gnats, especially drawn to any lights at night. Just taking the dogs for a walk in the evening allowed hundreds of gnats into the house. We never did figure out a good way to avoid it, however, the good news is that they didn't seem to be biting us.
There is no off-leash dog park here, though they have an huge amount of open space in which to assemble one. I would hope that one is in future plans.
Cell coverage is spotty in this region for all three of our providers -- Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. We have been able to get by for Internet with our booster, but making and getting calls has been sporadic.
A satellite dish will be useless in about 90% of the park. The thick forest canopy exists throughout the park and only the fortunate few who have sites on the north side of the open fields or with an open window above them can get their dish receiving satellite signals. I had one of those windows just south of my site and, after a couple of hours of moving the dish around, I was finally able to get my dish to see two out of its normal three satellites, though one was flaky and neither worked with any rain falling at all.
All-in-all, Lake Tawakoni RV Campground deserves a good rating, and I think of it as one of the better resorts we have stayed in. We plan on returning in the winter months when it's not so hot. The lack of an off-leash park and the condition of the roads and sites are the only things keeping this from being one of my 5-star resorts.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 7 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.